Is college the only option for high school graduates?

BY: NAZLI ISLAM

We all remember senior year of high school: the applications, the tests and the stress. It was the most talked about subject. Everyone wanted to know where you applied, where you got in and where you were going. How many people thought about other options? Not a gap year, but working toward a job or trade instead.

For many of us, the idea never even crossed our minds, or our parents’ minds. The future was college, because that is how you get a good job. But what if that is not necessarily the case?

Many people assume that you cannot obtain a fulfilling full-time job if you do not go to college. You cannot be a doctor, an engineer, a scientist or a teacher. In order to earn real respect, the best thing to do is attend a university and aim for higher education. How else can you use your creativity and your intellect? How else will you be able to help people in the future?

The truth is more complicated. College has become much more expensive in the last 30 years. According to College Board, the cost of four years in a public institution has gone up 124.7 percent. Income, for a large number of families, did not increase proportionally, and they cannot afford to pay. As for student loans, between 2004 and 2014, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports the number of student loan borrowers has gone up 92 percent and the average student loan balances have gone up 74 percent. In summary, these statistics mean that for an expanding group of people, debt accumulates before students even have the chance to get a job within their field.

The job market can be stressful. Opportunities, for those who graduate college and those who do not, are not as ample as they were in the past. Waiting four years to try and find a job may become a disadvantage in this situation. Four years in college could mean losing a space to someone who has four years of real-world experience, because there is a chance you may end up competing for the same job.

Some people believe that jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree are low-earning and unsatisfying, but this claim lacks substance and understanding. Without realizing it, we depend on people to complete tasks vital to the function of our society, yet we find some of these positions undesirable.

Graphic by Meryl Kornfield

On the flip side, careers such as an occupational therapy assistant, dental hygienist and diagnostic medical sonographer each do not require a bachelor’s degree and earn above $50,000 in median salary. Jobs like these connect to the medical field, which otherwise demands extensive additional years of schooling. Career options in the areas of science and mathematics, seem highly unapproachable and daunting to achieve. A wide range of choices exist, and they allow you to express yourself and help others.

Maintenance workers, plumbers and garbage collectors are just a few professions that hold our society together. These jobs are stable and are often in demand. For people who do not need their job to be their whole life, employment in these areas could prove to be more useful than spending time and money on a degree.

However, attending an institution for higher education has its merits. You develop social skills, find valuable mentors and gain a wide-range of knowledge. Those people, however, who see college as simply a means to an end, a way to find a career, may discover a faster path to achieve their goals, which contains merits of its own. College is not for everyone, and that is okay.

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